A favorite perk for HLS community members is free coffee each morning, however, until this fall our daily caffeinated kick was coming at an environmental cost. Paper coffee cups make up a disproportionate amount of landfill waste, and last year HLS’ contribution totaled roughly 5,300 pounds of trash – from the 172,000 paper coffee cups RA purchased for use on campus.
Recognizing this challenge, students proposed to remove paper coffee cups from the free coffee stations, and instead, to distribute complimentary re-useable mugs to all HLS community members. The switch received widespread support in a recent survey of the on-campus community. So, this fall, students, faculty and staff kicked off the school year with stainless steel “Green is the new Crimson” re-useable mugs and an accompanying reduction in environmental impact. Over the course of one year, a daily coffee drinker will divert 11 lbs of waste by using a re-useable mug instead of a paper cup. In addition to their practical application, the mugs serve as a constant visual reminder to reduce waste when possible, one of the important focuses of HLS’ campus sustainability programs.
As Daniel Goleman and Gregory Norris explain in their New York Times article about re-useable container life-cycle assessment, there are environmental impacts associated with producing re-useable containers, as well as impacts from washing these containers. However, according to a University of Victoria study, the impacts of re-useable mugs begin to break-even with their paper counterparts after as few as 15 uses. Now that’s a coffee break you can feel good about!